US-Mali Agreement Renewal

Following up from my previous post I’ve been reading up on initiatives to protect heritage threatened by civil or political unrest. One area that keeps cropping up is Mali. They have been fairly prominent on the Blue Shield and CHAMP websites since the recent (Sept. 19) renewal of the “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Mali concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from Mali from the Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) to Approximately the Mid-Eighteenth Century”.  This of course falls under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO convention and is a continuation of an agreement that has been in effect since 1993.

Such agreements between nations may go some way to alleviating the difficulties of protecting cultural heritage sites but I do wonder how practical they are for the overall protection of world heritage. The above agreement is simply an example (although a positive one!). As a limitation on illegal import it is an important step. However, it is limited strictly to import and strictly to US actors. The whole system for implementing the 1970 convention seems remarkably complicated to me… there are so many different agreements and differing guidelines in each country that it is difficult to see how well all these agreements integrate.

The above agreement is strictly limited to import. One of the main dangers facing the heritage of Mali, if I understand the situation correctly, is the outright destruction of sites rather than their illicit excavation. Given this, I’m unsure how far agreements between Mali and other nations can go towards preservation. I’m aware through CHAMP that there are individuals working actively towards defending such sites but understandably and perhaps rightly, given the possible political ramifications, such agreements can do little to prevent outright destruction of sites by internal actors. I’m not sure what the solution is in such cases – or if there even is one.

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